Taking the lead

Three MNW?students submit petition, seek to help improve Crossroads Mall

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Manson Northwest Webster students Samantha Andersen, 7, left, Marleigh Doan, 12, and Kyla Egli, 11, listen to Fort Dodge City Council members as they discuss the future of Crossroads Mall. The three girls visited with city leaders about the mall for a project at their school.

Three area girls disappointed with the variety of stores in Crossroads Mall decided that they should do more than just complain.

So Samantha Andersen, 11; Marleigh Doan, 12; and Kyla Egli, 11; got to work. The three, who will all be seventh-graders at Manson Northwest Webster Junior High in the fall, did some research, met with Fort Dodge officials and circulated a petition calling on the city to help get more stores in the mall.

On Monday, they addressed the City Council and presented their petition. The three stood at a podium and took turns reading a statement about their effort. They concluded by asking what more they could do.

Then Andersen handed the multi-page petition to Dawn Siebken, the deputy city clerk.

”You are brave to come up here and talk,” Councilwoman Lydia Schuur said. ”There are adults that don’t want to do that.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Manson Northwest Webster students Samantha Andersen, 11, left, Marleigh Doan, 12, and Kyla Egli, 11, are all smiles as they wait to give their presentation at the Fort Dodge City Council meeting Monday night. The three girls circulated a petition regarding the future of Crossroads Mall in Fort Dodge. They will be seventh-graders this fall.

”I want to applaud you,” Councilman Neven Conrad told the girls.

He said anyone can be ”an armchair quarterback.” But he said Andersen, Doan and Egli actually made an effort to address a problem.

”You’re persistent,” he said. ”You want to figure out how to do it.”

”Keep doing your research,” he advised the girls.

Before the council meeting, Egli explained that the effort got its start in mid-May, when the girls were reading a publication called Scholastic News in class. It had an article on a big shopping mall in China.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Manson Northwest Webster students Samantha Andersen, 11, left, Marleigh Doan, 12, and Kyla Egli, 11, sit with teacher/librarian Christine Sturgeon, as they wait to present information to the Fort Dodge City Council Monday night regarding their hope for Crossroads Mall.

”We thought wouldn’t it be cool if we had a mall like that in Fort Dodge?” she said.

They began talking about improving Crossroads Mall. Egli said a teacher associate, Marcus Bell, gave them the idea for a petition.

The petition states, ”We, the citizens of Fort Dodge and Manson, petition the city to put more stores in the Crossroads Mall.”

The girls know the city doesn’t own the mall. But Andersen said the petition is intended to get officials to ”try and reach out to the owners” of the mall. The mall is owned by Namdar Realty Group, Mason Asset Management and CH Capital, all of Great Neck, New York.

The petition was signed by 54 people.

”We took it around to many people in our community and our familyand friends,” Doan said.

In addition to asking people to sign the petition, the girls asked people to write down what kind of stores they would like to see in the mall. Clothing stores and video game arcades were the top responses.

Christine Sturgeon, a teacher and librarian with the Manson Northwest Webster Community School District, set up an appointment for the girls to meet with city leaders.

On May 21, the three met with Mayor Matt Bemrich, City Manager David Fierke and Siebken.

”At first it was intimidating, but after we got to talking, it warmed up,” Andersen said.

During that meeting, the girls were invited to address the City Council.

Egli said the fact that three girls her age circulated a petition about the mall ”kind of says something needs to be done.” She said the girls would be willing to attend more meetings about the mall.

After the council meeting, Bemrich said he doesn’t recall young people circulating petitions and submitting them to the council on any subject in recent history.